How to Hang Wallpaper

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter's level
  • Trim guard or putty knife
  • Chalk line
  • Break-away razor knife
  • Seam roller
  • Scissors
  • Smoothing brush
  • Metal straightedge
  • Ladder
Materials Required
  • Pre-pasted wallcovering
  • Water tray or paint roller and pan
  • Drop cloths
  • Bucket and sponge
  • Wallpaper
  • Primer/sealer
  • Pre-paste activator

Before You Begin

Take a good look at the walls of the room to decide where to begin hanging wallpaper. This will help you determine where it will end. That final seam where the wallpaper meets should be in an inconspicuous corner so that an imperfect pattern match won't be noticeable.

For a first-time paperhanger prepasted wallcovering is a good choice because it is simple to activate the adhesive and it eliminates messy pasting. Follow the manufacturer's because they're not all the same. Some papers have adhesive that is activated when it soaks in a water tray, others are activated by brushing on a pre-pasted activator. The activator is like a thinned down version of adhesive that you apply with a pasting brush or short-nap paint roller.

Choose a small pattern that repeats itself every few inches so it can be easily aligned as you hang adjacent strips of wallcoverings. A 4-to-6 inch repeat pattern is also the simplest type for estimating purposes because you don't have to make allowances for a large pattern repeat.

To estimate the number of rolls needed for a room, measure each wall by multiplying the length by the width. Add the totals of all the walls and you have the total square footage of the room. Then measure all the openings on the walls, such as doors, windows and archways. Subtract the total area of the openings from the total square footage of the walls.

The total coverage figure for a roll of wallpaper is noted on the back of the sample of wallpaper in the wallpaper book and on the packaging. Divide the total square footage of the room by the total coverage figure on the wallpaper roll to figure the number of rolls you'll need. Always round up to the next highest number when you're estimating.

If you're buying wallpaper that's stocked in the store you can buy an odd number of rolls, but when you're ordering wallpaper from a book, you will probably have to buy double rolls. So keep that in mind when you're estimating. It's always a good idea to order a little bit extra to cover any mistakes and to have on hand for future repairs.

To confirm the number of rolls you'll need before ordering, tell the salesperson the square footage of the room and the number of doors and windows. They'll calculate how many rolls are needed based on the area of the room you give them. If you've chosen a pattern with a large repeat or if the room has many irregular openings, ask for help in calculating the amount of wallpaper needed. The last thing you want to do is run out of wallpaper and discover that it's no longer available.

To get the walls ready, remove all wall decorations and patch any holes in the walls with spackling compound. Apply the compound with a putty knife, wait for it to dry, then sand it smooth and flush with the wall. Remove electrical outlet covers and switch plates and cover them with masking tape. Put all the covers, screws and other hardware from wall decorations in a small bucket or coffee can so they'll be ready for reinstallation. If there are fingerprints or dirt on them, give them a good washing with a household cleaner and let them dry.

Painted walls are a good surface for the wallpaper to adhere to, but using a wallpaper primer will guarantee the best results and make it easier to slide the wet wallpaper around on the wall as you position it. Choose an acrylic wallpaper primer/sealer and apply it with a paint roller several hours before you plan to hang the paper. Discuss the condition of your walls with the salesperson for advice on whether you need a primer/sealer and if so, what type will give you the best results.

Sound too complicated and time consuming? Here's a link to Home Advisor, a free referral service that matches homeowners with local wallcovering contractors.

  • Step 1 : Decide where to start

    Decide where to start

    Find a starting point in the room to begin hanging the walllpaper. Adjust a carpenter's level until the bubble is centered and then use a pencil to draw vertical lines at the top, middle and bottom of the wall. These lines will be the location for the first strip of wallpaper. If the lines aren't plumb (perfectly vertical), then the first strip -- and all subsequent ones -- will be off kilter, lending a listing ship affect to the room.

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